Additional Review of Redwood Trees Identified for Removal

February 17, 2017

The community and City Council has raised concerns over the announcement to remove three redwood trees on Miller Avenue. City staff has taken a closer look at the issue.

The overarching goal of the Miller Avenue Streetscape project is to improve the deteriorated infrastructure, increase safety and maintain our unique City identity. The design planned to retain the three redwood trees, but a final determination was not feasible until portions of the roadway and landscaping area were removed to fully assess the health of the trees and their root systems. This exploration is what is taking place now.

The contractor excavated around portions of the trees and an independent arborist has evaluated the health and location of the trees’ roots. The arborist’s report raised significant concerns and recommended removal of the trees.

The tree across from Whole Foods is the healthiest of the three redwoods, and may be able to be retained. If the root conditions are favorable, outbound Miller Avenue will be modified to provide more soil and room for the redwood tree to grow. To save the tree, we will take a chance that the tree may not thrive, as long as our City arborist thinks it is safe and there is a reasonable chance for success based on what the additional excavation reveals. The tree would need to be pruned significantly to provide a minimum of 16 feet of clearance over the roadway, further hindering their appearance and chance of survival. If the tree is able to be salvaged, it will continue to be monitored, may encounter future difficulties and ultimately may have to be removed at a later date.

The second redwood tree at Evergreen Avenue (the one closest to Marin Theater Company), is in a state of decline and is scheduled to be removed. We will also investigate the condition of the roots under the roadway to see if any redesign may be beneficial, but pending a significant surprise regarding the root health and locations, this tree is scheduled to be removed. It is constrained on three of four sides. If removal is necessary, the City will place a new redwood in its place centered between the curbs.

The foliage of the third redwood tree near the Union Bank is more than 50% dead, with severe stress and the tree is stunted by its environment and possibly salt water intrusion. The construction project has not significantly impacted the tree’s health. This tree will be removed based on the arborists recommendation.

The City will continue conducting field investigations along the rest of the corridor as the project progresses. There are a number of potential tree and landscaping conflicts within the project limits, particularly from Millwood Street to Willow Street, that pose safety, accessibility and infrastructure maintenance issues that will be evaluated. The project team will provide advance notice to the community and City Council as part of its regular updates to City Council in terms of the assessment and recommended tree removals, if they become necessary, to allow for discussion prior to actions being taken.

It is important to note that other trees identified during the design process as potentially requiring removal, were saved following further field investigation. The carob trees at Montford Avenue and the magnolia trees along the inbound storefronts from Evergreen to Locust were successfully saved and integrated into the project following excavation of the sidewalks. Once the sidewalks were dug up, we learned more about their root structures and coordinated with the City arborist to enhance the health of the trees.

Please contact Danielle Staude, Senior Planner, with any questions or comments:

The following provides further detail about the trees and their replacement.

Why are trees being removed now?

Since the tree removal notice was released on February 2, 2017, additional field investigations have occurred, providing additional information about the root structure and health of the trees.

The redwood tree in the median at Evergreen across from Whole Foods is stunted by its environment and perhaps the drought. The foliage is off-color due to water stress. Additional field investigations will occur, attempting to preserve the tree. If the root systems are favorable, the outbound bicycle lane and pedestrian crossing will be modified, lanes will be shifted and construction methods will be modified to increase the median area and minimize disruption to the tree. Should removal be required, a large monument tree will be planted in the median.

The redwood tree in the median at Evergreen closest to the Marin Theater Company is in a declined state, stunted by its environment and perhaps the drought. The foliage shows signs of water stress. A large portion of tree roots must be removed to adjust the median, excavate and reconstruct this failed section of Miller Avenue and to establish a road elevation and grade to accommodate accessible pathways. A large young redwood tree will be planted in this location following completion of paving to avoid construction conflicts.

The redwood tree in the median located across from the Union Bank is stunted by the environment and quite likely the drought, and requires removal for safety concerns as it is declining rapidly. The foliage of this tree is more than 50% dead and shows signs of severe water stress.  This redwood will be replaced with big leaf maples.

Why is tree health and safety a concern for removal?

The poor growing environment and drought stress caused the trees’ stunted growth and poor health. In the recent storms, Public Works crews responded to and cleared more than 40 fallen trees, some of which fell on houses and cars. These recent storms illustrate the real danger trees in poor health pose.

What kind of construction is taking place near the trees?

The Evergreen intersection, in particular, is very complex addressing pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety concerns raised by the community. There is a fair amount of construction required in this area that adjusts the median and new roadway alignment and elevation, installation of a seating area, pedestrian warning beacons, new landscaping and accessible pathways.

Does the project preserve any of the trees on Miller Avenue?

Since construction of the Miller Avenue Streetscape Project began in June of 2016, the City has carefully planned and conducted work near the trees with consideration to their preservation and well-being. The trunks were protected during construction, pruning was limited, and the project included new irrigation to the redwood trees.

The project has successfully incorporated the magnolia and carob trees into the roadway design. As part of the reconstruction and realignment of the roadway, 50 trees have been removed from Miller Avenue between Willow Street and Reed Street/Valley Circle, (what we call “Main Street”) - 35 existing trees will be preserved, and 145 new trees will be planted. Trees in other areas of the street are maintained with the project.

When will the new trees be planted?

New street trees are anticipated to be planted by December 2017.

Did the City seek community input into the trees and landscaping of the Miller Avenue Streetscape Project?

The Miller Avenue Streetscape Plan was developed over more than 10 years based on the input and guidance by the community. In 2011, local community members discussed the impact to existing trees, where the project modifies the roadway alignment, and eliminates the frontage roads. The redwoods in the median at Evergreen and Miller Avenue were discussed in depth, with some community members in favor of maintaining the trees, while others identified the trees as blocking visibility and creating a safety concern. The redwoods were incorporated into the project, with the understanding that they could be significantly impacted and potentially require removal to accommodate the realignment of the street.

Are the trees being removed to create additional parking?

No. The trees are not being removed to create additional parking.

Are these considered Heritage Trees?

Although the trees are prominent, they do not meet the trunk diameter requirement to be considered Heritage Trees.

Learn more:

Notice of Tree Removal - Posted February 2, 2017

What will Miller Avenue look like?

Community-Based Development of the Streetscape Plan

Chapter 3 of the Streetscape Plan: Character: Ecology, Landscape and Culture

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